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Africarmen At DanceXchange Birmingham - Review

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by Alison Brinkworth (subscribe)
Freelance journalist in Birmingham with a passion for the dynamic theatre, art, food and fashion scene in Britain's 'Second City'.
Event: -
New Modern Dance Take On Carmen
Reworking the famous opera tale of Carmen, this modern dance production has transported the story of lust and revenge to an oil township in Africa.

africarmen tavaziva, DanceXchange, Birmingham, Review
Africarmen is being performed for DanceXchange in Birmingham


Africarmen by Tavaziva Dance Company was performed at DanceXchange in Birmingham as part of a UK tour that continues to cities including London, Bath and Woking during March and April.

Based loosely on Georges Bizet's opera Carmen, it has moved the action to a modern-day, oil-rich military dictatorship in Africa. The movements shout loudly of violence, corruption and rape to an intense soundtrack, composed and arranged by Fayyaz Virji, which subtly has only a slight hint of the original Bizet music.

The show is choreographed by Zimbabwean-born Bawren Tavaziva and has just six skilled dancers portraying the story through contemporary and African dance.

africarmen tavaziva, DanceXchange, Birmingham, Review
Africarmen is an African dance version of opera Carmen


Africarmen is still very much the Carmen story of desire, deceit and passion, but this tale is also about more hard-hitting issues of corruption, the control of gang-masters and desire of deprived people to escape poverty to a better life.

The bare stage has a small oil tower in one corner but an impressive use of lighting helps create shadows and different locations, like a boxing match. Interestingly, the bullfighter has been changed into a professional boxer, which fits better into the contemporary setting.

At first, it's not easy to see which of the three female dancers on stage is Carmen but it later becomes more obvious when she changes into a red dress and seduces Mhondiwa away from his wife, who is attacked by a cruel gang master.

africarmen, birmingham, tour
Sensual dancing in Africarmen


The strength of the piece is Tavaziva's distinctive choreography that is infused with African dance steps. It is also beautifully expressive and exudes sensuality along with fierce passion in seductive dance sequences.

Tavaziva's own story goes in some way in explaining how he manages to create such emotive as well as hard-hitting images. He grew up in a rural African village but went on to join a dance company and toured Africa with Tumbuka before joining Phoenix and Union dance in England.

In 2004, his choreography for the deeply moving quintet Umdhlalo Kasisi, in memory of his sister who died of AIDS, earned him recognition as a finalist forThe Place Prize.

Africarmen is an hour-long production with no interval but it becomes more intense as it goes on. The erotic duo dance scenes stand out as does the mental anguish of Mhondiwa, danced excellently by Theo Samsworth. This is shown through a sensitive solo routine that Samsworth dances in his underwear as he makes the change from oil worker to the Army. It's also full of symbolism of his changing state of mind and allegiances.

Seductive and expressive, this modern dance production is a refreshing new take on Carmen with memorable choreography that makes Tavaziva's work stand out from the crowd.

RATING: ½

Cast
Anna Watkins
Carmine de Amicis
Ellen Yilma
Jordan Bridge
Lisa Rowley
Theo Samsworth

Africarmen - UK Tour Dates

9 March 2017
DanceXchange, The Patrick Centre, Birmingham Hippodrome

14 March 2017
Dance Woking, Rhoda McGaw Theatre, Woking

16 March 2017
Déda, Derby

21 March 2017
Bernie Grant Arts Centre, London

24 March 2017
The Lighthouse Theatre, Poole

31 March 2017
DanceEast, Ipswich

8 April 2017
The Edge Theatre, University of Bath


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Why? Expressive new dance version of Carmen
When: Touring until April
Phone: Various theatres, see list
Where: UK tour including Patrick Centre, Birmingham
Cost: From £19.75
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